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Full Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolate: What's the Difference?

Posted by Justin Adair on Jun 14, 2019 2:57:24 PM
Justin Adair

Full-Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolate: What's the Difference?

Cannabidiol (more commonly referred to as CBD) is a naturally occurring compound sourced from the cannabis sativa plant. It has gained immense popularity for its potential therapeutic benefits for people and even pets.  It contains the same molecules as THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid found in recreational and medical marijuana. However, because the molecules are arranged differently, CBD won’t cause the user to become high or experience any mind-altering effects.

The sheer amount of CBD products on the market is staggering, but CBD oil remains a favorite among consumers. Although there is no shortage of information about this remarkable compound, there is still a lot of confusion about the oils themselves. Should you choose full-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate?  What are the differences between the two?



We are going to attempt to unravel the mystery behind these labels and discuss the key differences between full-spectrum CBD vs. CBD isolate. We will also touch on broad-spectrum formulations, a fairly new development in the industry.

For more information on buying CBD Oil online: be sure to check out our resource page: The Complete Guide to Buying CBD Oil Online.


What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a group of over 100 different compounds that are both naturally occurring in the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids) and can also be synthesized in a lab (synthetic cannabinoids). When introduced into the body, they bind to cannabinoid receptors that are part of the body's natural endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endocannabinoids are naturally produced cannabinoids in the body, and the ECS plays a distinct role in helping to regulate many of the body's function.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known due to its ability to cause euphoria when smoked or ingested, but other cannabinoids also appear to play a distinct role in helping to regulate the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most talked about cannabinoid, but other phytocannabinoids are being researched as well. Among these are:

  • Cannabidiol Acid (CBDA)

CBDA is being studied for its potential as an anticonvulsant, pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and to help control nausea and vomiting. It also may enhance the brain’s 5-HTP receptors, which control serotonin production.  Like CBD, it is non-psychoactive.

  • Cannabichromene (CBC)

CBC is also an essential non-psychoactive cannabinoid. It is known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and may potentially work on treating gastrointestinal disorders. Because it has shown potential to regenerate brain cells, it may be used in the future for neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN is a cannabinoid that is believed to have powerful sedative and antianxiety effects. It is mildly psychoactive and is being studied as a potential replacement for addictive benzodiazepines.


These are just three of the dozens of other cannabinoids in cannabis that are being studied for their potential therapeutic effects.



What Is CBD Specifically?

CBD has been gaining traction over the past several years for its remarkable ability to work indirectly with the endocannabinoid system (ECS for short) to bring about homeostasis. The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in biological functions like mood, sleep, temperature, appetite, pain, and more. The ECS contains more receptors than all of the body’s systems put together, including neurotransmitters.

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Endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. When the ECS is not functioning well and our own body is not producing enough cannabinoids, CBD is thought to be able to replace them and help the body to begin regenerating its own cannabinoids, restoring it to balance.

Within the past two years, a pharmaceutical containing CBD called Epidiolex was released to the public. It shows a fantastic ability to treat resistant seizure disorders in children.

How Is CBD Oil Made?

CBD oil is made by extracting it directly from industrial hemp grown for this purpose. While extraction methods can vary, there are two main methods used for this process.

The first is to use ethanol extraction.  Some CBD operations use this method because it is inexpensive, while others feel it produces a superior product. While the jury is still out on whether that is the case or not, ethanol extraction can also be a dangerous undertaking.

More extensive hemp operations typically use CO2 extraction. This method is considered by many to be the gold standard in the industry. Clean and environmentally friendly, it is also extremely costly and requires technicians specialized in the industry to run it.

Once the CBD compound has been extracted, it is commonly mixed with a carrier oil which forms the basis of the finished product known as CBD oil.


Why All the Hype?

The emerging popularity of CBD is due to a few different factors. Consumers are tired of relying on dangerous pharmaceuticals and are turning to all-natural and holistic options for maintaining health and wellbeing.

The increased acceptance and new legislation surrounding medical marijuana also plays a role. As the public has become more educated on the therapeutic properties of cannabis, the stigma and misunderstanding of the oft-demonized plant have decreased as well. However, not everyone wants the accompanying high that comes with THC. Additionally,THC and marijuana are still not legal in all 50 states.


CBD is federally legal in all 50 states and provides a viable option for obtaining the potential medicinal benefits without any psychoactive effects.


The final reason for all the hype surrounding this cannabinoid is that people are finding that it works for them. More than a passing health fad, people have been using CBD for a wide range of reasons and experiencing great success by taking high-quality CBD oil. Further, CBD carries little to no side effects and has a high safety profile that is appealing to consumers.



General Comparison: Full Spectrum vs Isolate


Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

As we talked about previously, cannabis contains over 100 natural cannabinoids. Additionally, it includes vitamins, amino and fatty acids, and terpenes that have been found to be healthful. While full-spectrum CBD oil contains CBD as the active ingredient, the inclusion of these other compounds is what makes it full-spectrum.

During extraction, the phytochemicals and plant matter remain in the product, unfiltered. This means that whatever is in the whole plant itself is extracted and remains in the final product. These other compounds give the oil their distinct tastes, colors, and scents.

Many experts believe that this whole plant approach encourages a theory called the entourage effect. The entourage effect proposes that the combination of the compounds in their entirety work better together rather than if they were taken separately.


CBD Isolate

Other experts feel that the best results may be obtained by taking a single molecule product like CBD isolate, and there are those who seem to have better results with this type of oil.

CBD isolate products are created with a 99%+ pure form of the cannabidiol (CBD) molecule. The CBD molecule is completely isolated from the other compounds in the plant to create the CBD isolate.

Isolates are typically made using high-performance liquid chromatography, a technique that separates and removes the other compounds, plant matter, and water from the oil until all that is left is a white powder that is tasteless and odorless. This pure powder is then combined with a carrier oil to form CBD isolate oils.



Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil

Another formulation that is starting to become popular is broad-spectrum CBD oil, which is essentially a cross between full-spectrum and isolates. It is made by either taking a CBD isolate and adding the other compounds back into the oil or by CO2 extraction that is put through the additional step of chromatography to remove only the THC.

The purpose of broad-spectrum formulations is to provide the consumer with a full-spectrum product that contains no traces of THC.

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Pros and Cons of Full-Spectrum Cbd vs. Isolate

While the choice between the two formulations is more of a personal one than anything else, there are some advantages and disadvantages of each which we will discuss below.


Advantages of Full-Spectrum Oils

  • The full range of phytochemicals is present in the final product, potentially allowing for the entourage effect in the body
  • Beneficial terpenes and flavonoids are also included in full-spectrum products, each with their own potential health benefits as well
  • Full-spectrum products are widely available


Disadvantages of Full-Spectrum Oils

  • The taste can be off-putting to many users and typically ranges from mild to very earthy. While some people enjoy the strong flavor of full-spectrum oils, other people can’t stomach them.
  • Full-spectrum CBD oil contains trace amounts of THC; less than 0.3%. While this amount is not enough to produce any unwanted psychoactive effects, it has the potential to cause a positive result on a drug test.


Advantages of CBD Isolates

  • CBD Isolates are generally colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Sometimes a flavor like lemon or grape is added to make them more appealing, but the strong earthy taste that full-spectrum formulations are known for is not present here. This makes it an attractive option for those with taste sensitivities.
  • Another advantage of using a CBD isolate is that it contains no THC whatsoever, allowing those who are concerned about workplace drug testing more peace of mind.


Disadvantages of CBD Isolates

  • The main disadvantage of CBD isolates is the fact that all the other compounds in the hemp have been removed.  As previously stated, many researchers believe the inclusion of all the ancillary chemicals in the plant may produce a more synergistic effect within the body.



How to Choose Which One Is Right for You

Many people want to know whether they should select an isolate or full-spectrum CBD product. This is mostly a matter of choice. By pondering the advantages and disadvantages of each, you will probably find yourself drawn to one or the other. Often, an individual will try both and see what works best for them. Listed below are some examples of each type.


NuLeaf Naturals 725mg Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Full Spectrum CBD Oil by Nuleaf Naturals

This Full-Spectrum CBD oil is produced by NuLeaf Naturals, a leader in the CBD industry. Sourced from organic, non-GMO Colorado hemp, it contains 725 mg of CBD oil in each bottle. The company uses a combination of sub-critical and super-critical CO2 extraction techniques to produce a product that retains all of the beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds of the plant.




CBDistillery CBDrop 1000mg (Zero THC)CBD Isolate Tincture by CBDistillery

CBDistillery was recently named Mashable's #1 Value Brand of 2019. The company was founded by a group of Colorado natives who wanted to bring quality, affordable CBD to the marketplace. They carry a full line of both full-spectrum and isolate CBD oils. This tincture contains 1000 mg of 99%+ pure isolate. Completely tasteless, it can be taken sublingually or added to your favorite beverage.




CBDistillery CBDrop Full Spectrum 500mgFull Spectrum CBD Tincture by CBDistillery

CBDistillery also carries full-spectrum oils. This offering contains 500 milligrams of CBD oil suspended in coconut MCT oil. It has an earthy aroma and flavor and is most effective when taken sublingually. Just hold it under your tongue for a minute or two before swallowing for maximum benefits. Sourced from non-GMO domestically-grown hemp, it is an affordable choice for anyone who would like to try a full-spectrum product.





While there are a lot of options when it comes to full-spectrum CBD oils vs. isolate formulations, both have their advantages and disadvantages. However, one thing they both have in common is the array of fantastic benefits they can provide to the user. CBD offers an all-natural option that millions of people have come to rely on for their overall mental and physical well-being.

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For more information on buying CBD Oil online: be sure to check out our resource page: The Complete Guide to Buying CBD Oil Online.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Topics: General Info, cbd isolate, Full Spectrum

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